Paul Kagame, president of Rwanda, will be one of Oklahoma Christian’s
keynote speakers during spring commencement on April 30. The First Lady
of the Republic of Rwanda, Mrs. Jeannette Kagame, will receive an
honorary doctorate for her significant contribution to the worldwide
fight against HIV/AIDS and poverty.
Because of the large graduating class, there will be two commencement
ceremonies—at 10:00 a.m. for the Colleges of Arts and Sciences and
Biblical Studies, and at 2 p.m. for the College of Professional Studies.
Kagame will speak during the afternoon session and Dr. Jack L. White,
who currently practices law with The Lanier Law Firm, P.C. in Houston,
will be the morning speaker.
During his first visit to Oklahoma Christian in 2006, Kagame and OC
signed the Rwandan Presidential Scholars program that now brings 10 top
Rwandan high school students to OC each year. There are now 60 Rwandan
students at OC and the first class of 10 Rwandan scholars will graduate
this spring along with 300 classmates, making this Oklahoma Christian’s
largest graduating class in the school’s 60 year history.
"The Rwandan students have been outstanding performers in the
classroom and good citizens in our university community,” said President
Mike O’Neal. "Oklahoma Christian has formed a strong relationship with
the leaders of Rwanda to help meet the long-term needs of President
Kagame’s Vision 2020. Our involvement in Rwanda began through the
efforts of OC Trustee and alumni Richard Lawson and his wife, Pat, who
hosted President Paul Kagame in Minneapolis.”
In 2004, O’Neal and his wife, Nancy, accompanied the Lawsons to
Rwanda as guests of President Kagame. In 2006, Kagame, Mrs. Kagame, the
Rwandan ambassador and four cabinet ministers made a state visit to the
OC campus and the state Capitol.
"Since that time, OC’s nation-building efforts in Rwanda include five
major initiatives: Rwandan Presidential Scholars with 51 of Rwanda’s
top students studying on campus (along with 9 others who have come on
their own); the community and educational programs of the Rwanda
Outreach & Community Foundation staffed by former OC employees Bryan
and Holly Hixson; Wishing Well, a student initiative that raises money
for clean water projects in Rwanda and other African nations;
Rwandans4Water, a student initiative of the Rwandan Presidential
Scholars in partnership with the Oklahoma City-based Water4 Foundation
to form a company to hand drill water wells in the most needy places in
Rwanda; and Peace Through Business-Rwanda, a partnership with the
Oklahoma City-based Institute for the Empowerment of Women, which
brought 15 Rwanda businesswomen to the OC campus in 2008 for ‘mini-MBA’
classes. Further initiatives to partner with the Rwandan leadership are
Under Kagame’s leadership, Rwanda is recovering from the genocide
that devastated the country in 1994. "President Kagame has worked to
bring peace and stability to Rwanda,” O’Neal said. "We are extremely
proud of our relationship with the Rwandan leadership and their efforts
to improve the lives of all Rwandans. We are confident that the Rwandan
students now graduating from Oklahoma Christian will return to Rwanda
and make a significant contribution to that country’s future.”
Kagame was sworn in as president of the Republic of Rwanda for a
seven-year term on September 12, 2003, following the country’s first
ever democratically contested multi-party elections held in August 2003.
He was born in Rwanda in 1957, but his parents soon fled to Uganda to
escape the violence. He joined in the five-year liberation war in 1980
and served as a senior officer in the Ugandan army from 1986 to 1990. He
attended a staff and command course at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., in 1990
and then returned to Rwanda after 30 years in exile to lead the Rwandan
Patriotic Army (RPA) in the liberation struggle. Following the
liberation of Rwanda, he was appointed vice president and minister of
defense in the Government of National Unity in 1994 and was elected
chairman of the Rwandese Patriotic Front (RPF) in 1998. Two years later,
Kagame was unanimously elected president by the Transitional National
Assembly. Kagame has received recognition for his leadership in peace
building and reconciliation, development, good governance, promotion of
human rights, women’s empowerment, and advancement of education.
Kagame holds a diploma in professional management and business
studies from the Open University of London. He was awarded an honorary
doctorate from OC in 2006. He has also been awarded honorary doctorate
degrees from University of the Pacific, La Roche College and India’s
Vellore Institute of Technology. In 2003 he was awarded the Global
Leadership Award by the Young Presidents Organization for his role in
reconciling Rwandans. He and Mrs. Kagame have been hosted at the White
House and in numerous capitals throughout the world.
The First Lady of the Republic of Rwanda, Mrs. Jeannette Kagame,
personifies an active, relentless and passionate devotion to uplifting
the lives of vulnerable populations in Rwanda, and in particular those
of widows, orphans of the genocide and impoverished families.
As the nation’s First Lady, Mrs. Kagame has admirably balanced
family, social life and philanthropy, not only in her own country but
continentally and worldwide. In 2001, she hosted the first and highly
successful African First Ladies’ Summit on Children and HIV/AIDS
Prevention in Kigali. She became a founding member of the Organization
of African First Ladies against HIV/AIDS (OAFLA) in 2002, and served as
its president from 2004 to 2006. In 2001, she founded PACFA ("Protection
and Care of Families against HIV/AIDS”), an initiative primarily
focused on providing a holistic approach to HIV prevention and care for
the whole family. Over the last nine years, through the Imbuto
Foundation, borne of and expanding on the PACFA initiative, Mrs. Kagame
has spearheaded, in a fresh, dynamic and momentous way, the
implementation of several initiatives on health, education, economic and
youth empowerment throughout the country.
Dr. Jack L. White joined his current firm last August after serving
as a law clerk for U.S. Supreme Court Justice, The Honorable Samuel A.
Alito, Jr. Before joining Judge Alito’s staff, White was an associate at
Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP in San Francisco from 2006 to
From 2004 to 2006, White served as an associate at Kirkland &
Ellis LLP, also of San Francisco, and from 2003 to 2004 worked as a
judicial clerk for Judge Alito in Newark, N.J. He worked as a law clerk
for Kirkland & Ellis LLP in the Los Angeles office from 2002 to
2003. White served in the U.S. Army from 1995 to 2000 and remained in
the Army Reserve until 2004.
White graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point,
N.Y, with a bachelor of science – systems engineering/operations
research in 1995. He was awarded West Point Cadet of the Year in 1992.
White graduated from Pepperdine University School of Law, magna cum
laude, in 2003, was editor in chief of the Pepperdine Law Review, and
president of the Christian Legal Society.
White has also served as an assistant minister at the Golden Gate
Church of Christ in San Francisco and the Midtown Church of Christ in
Savannah, Ga. He is very active in community service work including
encouraging professional development in Newark inner-city youth through
the New Jersey AllStars.